Joining a gym is often a great step towards achieving your health and fitness goals. With so many options available now, and with the winter chill making some of our outdoor options a little less appealing, it has never been a better time to join!
It's well known though, that many who join gyms, don't go! Or worse still, feel their time at the gym doesn't bring them the benefits they were looking for.
Perhaps you know a friend or family member who has gradually lost their gym mojo?
Or perhaps you feel you are a little stuck in your current routine?
If either of these apply, then read on!
I’ve compiled a list of common mistakes most people make when it comes to exercising at the gym, and some of the best strategies to avoid them.
1. Skipping the Warm-Up and Cool-Down
We are all guilty of this (myself included). I know the feeling of only having 30 minutes to exercise and wanting to make sure I do the best exercises we can within my limited time! However, if you don’t warm-up, you are more at risk of injuring yourself; if you don’t cool-down afterwards, you're more likely to pull up sore and stiff the next day. Both not all that fun!
Rather than using 5 to 10 minutes on the treadmill or bike to warm-up, I suggest doing 1 - 2 sets of the exercise you were planning to do but with a lighter weight before your actual working sets. For example, if your planning to squat with some weights, do a set of bodyweight squats first. Another option is to do some dynamic movements that warm up all your main muscle groups. My EP colleague Catherine is sharing a video soon on this very topic soon..so stay tuned!
As for cooling down, a few dynamic, full body stretches can help to minimise time spent by keeping it gentle and targeting lots of body parts. Check out Sarah and Freya's Bretzel series (Part I and Part II) for some great cooling down inspiration.
2. Avoiding Weight Training
This is a common belief amongst many female clients – that lifting weights will lead to big and bulky muscles. This just isn’t true!
Weight training is vital for any exercising individual! By lifting weights, you’ll promote strength in the muscles, and strong muscles means reduced risk of injury, better joint support, as well as fighting off the effects of ageing. Weight training is also important for weight loss – more muscle mass means more opportunity to burn energy!
3. Lack of spice – no variety!
Okay, picture this: you’re at the gym and lifting weights – you’re consistent; going every other day! You’re achieving your goals and feeling great. Then you hit a plateau – your normal workout doesn’t cut it anymore; you aren’t getting any stronger or losing any more weight. What can you do?
Variety is a key component to keeping the habit going. By changing the exercises and how you do them, you challenge your body to adapt. This doesn’t mean drastic changes across the board – its easy to take 1 or 2 exercises and spruce them up. For example, if your accustomed to Squats, why not try Lunges instead. Maybe your push-ups have reached their peak – try a bench press with dumbbells!
If you’re unsure about how you can add variety to your gym workouts, the next tip can help guide you on the right path…
4. Who needs a professional?
If you find yourself aimlessly walking around the gym, jumping from one machine to the next, without any real idea about what you’re doing (or why!), then seeking the help of a professional might just be what you need.
Professionals come in all shapes and sizes: Personal Trainers are the most common you’ll see in a gym environment, and usually have a wealth of exercise knowledge and ability to motivate their clients to work nice and hard. Exercise Physiologists can take it the next step further; they are university-qualified allied health professionals that can assist with a wider variety of injuries, diseases and even mental health! Whoever you decide on to help you, a professional can ensure you follow a plan focused on achieving your goals, keep you accountable and can guide your gym experience safely.
5. Too Fast, Too Furious
The final mistake is going too hard, too quickly – this usually leads to burning out. Pushing yourself to the limit can lead to injury or fatigue; either way, you’ll stop going to the gym just as quickly as you started.
Your safest bet is to start slow – focus on creating a routine first before you start increasing weights or pushing the intensity. When you’re confident, pick 1 or 2 things that you can change, not everything all at once.
I hope you’ve learnt something to help you avoid making one of these common mistakes in the gym. If you’re still unsure about what might be holding you back at the gym, feel free to reach out to us here at BJC Health.